This letter features reporting from “Poisoned Wells: Oil Pollution Haunts Nigerian District for Decades” by Bukola Adebayo

Respected Senator Loren Legarda,

Oil spills are a worldwide issue, affecting not only our environment but also global climate change and access to clean resources. This matter is only one of several that needs to be addressed immediately. 

In an article titled “Poisoned Wells: Oil Pollution Haunts Nigerian District for Decades” published in Context and by the Pulitzer Center, journalist Bukola Adebayo shares the experience of the Lagos community in Nigeria. For nearly 30 years, the Lagos community has tried its best to aid their environment and combat water pollution with its primary cause being oil spills. The contamination of the wells, their main supply of water, has persisted with harmful chemicals like toluene. A common experience highlighted when this kind of water is accessed is the watering of eyes and breathless sensation, affecting the community significantly. The pollution has affected about a million people in Baruwa and surrounding estates, leading to increased expenses for clean water and forcing some residents to move away. Despite efforts to resolve the issue, such as investigations by authorities about the cause, communities continue to face concerns and personal harm.

It is a given that the immense effects of this aspect of pollution on our environment will be tough to recover from economically and ecologically. My country has been affected by multiple oil spills every year, resulting in the use of limited resources and money to recover my beloved home. The Philippines is also heavily reliant on maritime jobs, opening more doors to possible sources of income, development of knowledge, and ecological impact. In a recent news article, journalist Dennis Datu shared with us the circumstances in the recovery process of the recent Occidental Mindoro oil spill. Last February, a tanker carrying 800,000 gallons of oil sank near the shores of the province in the southwest Philippines, endangering the biodiversity of 21 marine areas. A resident near the area said that they encountered such an environment wherein they faced various health risks and had difficulty finding food as they could no longer enjoy seafood. Fishermen could not go over the seas, making it harder to support their families and go through their everyday lives.

Even though some people are not directly affected by the oil spill, the damage causes setbacks in livelihoods and societal progress. This affects the country as a whole, and also me personally. My family has always taken me on trips to the serenading seas since I was young. My parents also made the seas a special spot for their honeymoons, specifically the Manila Bay. So, when the 2013 oil spill in that specific body of water happened, it was a devastating blow to the psyche of the family. Special memories were made and the idea of the very place that got my parents closer together being damaged shattered my heart. Truly, we should do our best to create and maintain an environmentally friendly community that does its absolute best to help in these types of situations, especially as a nation.

This issue has created a personal impact on me. Since I was young, I have been taught to look out for our homes and help alleviate climate change through simple acts. I have been a member of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines for 6 years and it has provided me insights on how we care for our ecosystem. It is disappointing to know how we neglect our duty as stewards of the world, and that is why I have a soft spot for environmental change. I believe that you, Senator Loren Legarda, are one of the most fitting people to address this issue as one of your advocacies involves environmental awareness. You, along with other government departments like the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources and Marine Environmental Protection Command, can resolve this specific concern through your specialized fields.

Preventing oil spills from happening in the first place is important, but there are instances where it cannot be avoided. What the state already established is a contingency plan, the collaboration between different government branches, and equipment. So, what is the problem? It is the slow response of the government in resolving oil spills. The process takes up loads of time, harming the seas and the people around it. What can be implemented is improved communication to alert the teams assigned to clean up and a system or device that can absorb or freeze the oil. In another Pulitzer Center article, journalist Omolola Afolabi wrote about the creation of a low-cost device to clean petrol-polluted water in Nigeria. It seems that students have found a way to effectively distillate the contaminated sample. This may not be the perfect solution, but building a device with similar concepts may theoretically work for our benefit.

This underlying concern is not just about the pollution oil spills bring to the oceans, but also the hindrance to the growth of our country and the demolishing of nature's beauty. Addressing and creating solutions can benefit us in the long run, and it is something I look forward to.

 Sincerely,

 Rea Tumbaga


Rea is a seventh grader at Philippine Science High School - Main Campus. She is interested in fields related to environmental change and political action. Beyond her profound pursuit, she finds joy in STEM-related activities, various literature, and looks forward to exploring more hobbies. She also plays some instruments, some of which are the guitar and drums. She is part of her school’s social action and Model United Nations club and is fully dedicated to the idea of developing a more sustainable world, which is only made possible through the efforts society is willing to give. 

As it has been one of the issues her country has been facing, providing a clean and sustainable water source amidst the crisis is something that needs addressing sooner rather than later. The ongoing environmental crisis is something that needs immediate addressing, and she believes that we need to take action now, or we’ll barely have enough time before we reach a truly disastrous outcome.

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